Diversify Your Revenue

We’re not going to talk about what we’re going to accomplish; we’re going to talk about how we’re going to do it. – Nick Saban

When I see mission-driven leaders who are succeeding, they are succeeding because they defined their mission and then asked, “How do we bring the resources around to succeed against that mission?” They did not ask for a hand out or for governmental support; they found ways to generate revenue that is mission-focused. This is the trend of today and of the future.

New startups definitely have more opportunity for clarity and freedom than existing organizations, but existing organizations need to pay attention to this as well.


Organizations who are amazing at this are:

Tom’s Shoes | The story behind Tom’s Shoes is that Blake Mycoskie went to Argentina to learn to play polo and then discovered that these Argentinian kids are not getting a proper education and that their quality of life stinks due to a lack of shoes. He also discovered cool shoes that they made locally that he liked and thought he could sell to his friends. So, Blake came up with the idea that he would sell these shoes to his friends, make a profit and then use that money to provide shoes to the children who need them. Thus, Tom’s Shoes was born. It has a social mission that is driven by business principles – and doing a darn good job of it. In fact, I just saw that they have given away over 60 million pairs of shoes.

charity: water | What Scott Harrison has done with charity: water is nothing short of amazing. He has built an organization that provides water, water services and water wells all over the globe, but does so with the highest level of business strategy that includes throwing an annual party that raises $10 million a year and allowing engaged fans to create their own money-raising strategies. His mission is purely charitable, but he makes sure you have a great time doing good.

High Growth Churches | Look at how incredibly fast some “mega” churches are growing today. They are expanding with the new dynamic of church planting and multi-site campuses, but what’s really unique is that these large churches are mostly volunteer-driven. Some even have hundreds of volunteers integrated into their daily operations. They are letting others, their engaged tribe, be a part of what they are doing, thus growing their influence and expanding their impact. They have found a way to generate additional “time” to accomplish work that staff alone could never do. None of that existed a decade or two ago. And, don’t think for one second that their revenue streams aren’t growing as a result of it too.

As we see the Millennials grow up into leaders, this is all they are going to know. The old model of charity, where an organization sends you an annual letter asking for donations, is not working today. You cannot tell these letters apart. You cannot tell their missions apart. And most of them don’t even establish a relationship with you before they ask for money.

If mission-driven organizations are not thinking of diversified sources of revenue or about how to drive change by amalgamating resources like time, talent and treasure, then they are probably not sustainable long-term. The question is not: Should we be looking for additional sources of revenue?  The questions is: What additional sources of revenue can augment and support our operations?  

It is clear that there are some problems that are not going to be fixed by buying a pair of shoes. Those are the problems that are going to generate government involvement and massive philanthropy. But, if we are looking at community-based or individual philanthropy, it is way more effective to get on trend with these fair trade, one for one, local decision making strategies as opposed to massive blanket solutions.

Always Forward.

Question: What could your organization do to be a part of this trend and diversify your revenue streams – especially as a not-for-profit?

p.s. If you want to check out a few more examples, Warby Parker and Good African Coffee are also doing this model well.